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Accounting for misclassification error in retrospective smoking data


Kenkel, Donald S.; Lillard, Dean R.; & Mathios, Alan D. (2004). Accounting for misclassification error in retrospective smoking data. Health Economics, 13(10), 1031-1044.


Recent waves of major longitudinal surveys in the US and other countries include retrospective questions about the timing of smoking initiation and cessation, creating a potentially important but under-utilized source of information on smoking behavior over the life course. In this paper, we explore the extent of, consequences of, and possible solutions to misclassification errors in models of smoking participation that use data generated from retrospective reports. In our empirical work, we exploit the fact that the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 provides both contemporaneous and retrospective information about smoking status in certain years. We compare the results from four sets of models of smoking participation. The first set of results are from baseline probit models of smoking participation from contemporaneously reported information. The second set of results are from models that are identical except that the dependent variable is based on retrospective information. The last two sets of results are from models that take a parametric approach to account for a simple form of misclassification error. Our preliminary results suggest that accounting for misclassification error is important. However, the adjusted maximum likelihood estimation approach to account for misclassification does not always perform as expected.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Health Economics


Kenkel, Donald S.
Lillard, Dean R.
Mathios, Alan D.